Susan Parrish
The La Grande Observer

Daniel Corsini, 11, held a human brain Saturday.

“It was gooey,” said the La Grande Middle School student, “and also awesome!”

But Kimmy Wagner, 15, was more subdued. It was not her first time holding a human brain. The sophomore at La Grande High School participates in her school’s medical pathways program and is planning to become a doctor. A few days earlier, she had held a brain during a school visit to do experiments on cadavers at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton.

Corsini and Wagner were among 70 students in grades 6 through 12 from schools throughout Northeast Oregon who attended a hands-on brain science and art event at La Grande High School Saturday. Students came from La Grande, Baker City, Boardman, Cove, Haines, Halfway, Milton-Freewater, North Powder, Nyssa, Pendleton, Union and Vale. Some students rode a bus for two hours to reach the event.

“Most people think of the brain as being squishy, but dead brains get a little harder. It’s spongy, but like a harder sponge,” Wagner said. “It’s a lot easier to learn with hands-on programs like this one.”

NW Noggin, a Portland-based nonprofit, brought 14 college volunteers, most who study neuroscience at Oregon universities, to LHS to give Northeast Oregon students an opportunity to do hands-on science and art activities — and to hold a human brain. The free event was coordinated by Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center and a host of community partners.

NW Noggin was created by Bill Griesar, who teaches neuroscience at Portland State University and Oregon Health Sciences University, and artist and PSU educator Jeff Leake. The nonprofit brings arts-integrated
science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) education outreach programs into schools and communities. It was NW Noggin’s first trip to Northeast Oregon.